Monday, February 22, 2010

Old Blue

I love the stories - I love the memories of the color - everyone seems to have reached back as far as they can remember - many going back to their grandmothers jewelry box, or the color of their first house, or family trips through the Southwest, or the sight of the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It's not even fair to have to pick the best story or even the one that captures the color turquoise the most vividly. Maybe the memories are the best prize of all.
BUT....if I have to choose just two (since I have two kits left)...I choose Robin Thomas for being able to remember how she felt at three years old posing in a studio in a blue velvet dress; and Dorylyn Thomas for telling the story of how she used to sit next to a fancy guest at Thanksgiving and hold her hand just so she could closely inspect the beautiful blue trinkets dangling from her arm. I related to so many of the stories - especially these two - they both spoke of how the color turquoise left an impression at an early age - and how they never forgot the feeling. To the two Thomas gals - please send me your address and we'll send off a bracelet kit to each of you. Merci!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Madame Bleu's Giveaway

This month, our notion collection celebrates all shades of blue - especially the old turquoises. Our jewelry workshop this month , made up this lovely bracelet - Blue Coeur. Since I never know exactly how many people are going to show up for one of our workshops -I often make too many kits and then they sit around the shop until some curious crafter is willing to try a random kit - just for the fun of it. Last week, in our charming bracelet class we had two - (read 'em and weep) - two students! So - I happen to have a couple of extra kits that need to be made up and worn out about town. If you love the color of vintage turquoise, aqua green and old tourmaline - leave me a comment about your first memory of this great old color - and we'll pick a lucky name for our Bleu Coeur Bracelet Kit. Bonne Chance!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shout Out to Molly

My sisters, Mom and I all had a long weekend together in San Francisco a couple weeks ago. We visited SCRAP, ate at Tartine way too many times, drank David Bruce pinot noir and hit the Oakland Museum's White Elephant Sale - favorite things to do! We also stopped by Molly's studio for a visit and I was amazed and overwhelmed at all of the great work she is doing. Molly calls her work historical fiction - she creates pieces of art using old found bits and scraps - the things left behind. This is a photo of one of the pieces I fell in love with. All I have to say is..... Molly will you please come teach this workshop at French General? When, what time and how much? We are patiently awaiting your arrival! See some of Molly's small works of wonder here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chateau Dumas, part deux

Chateau Dumas: 1800-2010
by Lizzie Ezekiel

The details of Chateau Dumas’ 13th century origins are a little sketchy, but we know quite a lot about life at the Chateau in the 19th century.
In the early 1800’s, Baron Henri de Cruzy, Marquis de Marcillac, and his wife, Leonie Vialette de Mortarieu, lived at the Chateau with their 4 children: Marie, Elisabeth, Gaston and Marguerite. They seem to be a mismatched couple. Leonie was pious, rose every morning at 6am to help at Mass and embroidered religious capes with gold thread in her spare time. Henri in the meantime gambled away the 10 tenant farms on his property (Leonie bought 4 of them back!) and hunted in the forest with his friend Charles Durieu, a bachelor who “preferred a pleasant mistress to a detestable wife”.
Their resident staff included Mathilde the cook, Jean the coachman, Marie-Girard the chambermaid, Antonin the gardener and Mariosou his wife and Poncet, the groom in whose arms Henri died. The wet nurse Calinou Lagane lived in Auty and came just when needed.
Son Gaston took over the Chateau when Henri died. He married Edith de Cambolas, a stylish and beautiful woman who was “never ready on time, always late”. She was keen to preserve her figure and climbed the stairs ten times a day in order to preserve her flat stomach (tried that and it doesn't work!).
Gaston donated a parcel of land for the construction of the church in Auty. The vicar baptised the bells Francois and Renee after Gaston’s godfather, Francois and godmother, Renee de Cruzy.
Ownership of the Chateau changed hands several times during the 20th century. At one time it belonged to an Italian family, then it was a pig farm and at one point it nearly became an old people's home. It was finally rescued by the Constantins, a Parisien family who fell in love with it and devoted 13 years to its restoration. Robert Constantin, a talented artist, adorned the walls with trompe l'oeil designs (still there!).
And now of course there's us, an English family with French connections whose aim is to celebrate the beauty of Chateau Dumas by sharing it with others. I hope you are able to come visit this summer with French General - we are planning a week of inspiration and local flavor - I'll hold you a room!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Meet me in St. Louis!

I'm getting ready to head back to St. Louis at the end of April - I know it sounds like it's years away - but to me, it's right around the corner! Mary Englebreit and Barbara Martin, former editor of Mary Englebreit's Home Companion Magazine have organized a jam-packed creative weekend - including studio tours of Mary's creative space. I am teaching two different classes - each twice - a jewelry class - where we will be making this charming turquoise bracelet - and a millinery flower class - where we will be creating fabric flowers out of our new line of fabric, Rural Jardin. It will be a grand four days in St. Louis and some of my favorite people will be teaching, speaking or even sitting on a panel - Amy Butler, Marcia Ceppos from Tinsel Trading, Margo Tantau, Wendy Addison, Kathy Curotto, and Charlotte Lyons - among many others. I've heard there are still a few spots left, so if you're in need of a creative get together - please join us! Read more about the weekend and sign up here. See you in St. Louis!

Sunday, February 07, 2010


I have something for quilts. Actually, I have something for crazy quilts - those wacky looking bed covers that seem to have no pattern or design sense - but make me feel like home every time I see one. Sometimes, it's the silk and velvet that I love and other times it's the primitive embroidery - outlining each scrap of fabric. I've been looking at quilts since I was young. I looked at my aunt's collection, I looked at my mom's collection - I used to go look at Laura Fisher's collection on Bleecker Street. When we moved French General to Crosby Street, I used to walk home north towards Spring Street and look at Paula Rubenstein's collection of quilts, blankets and coverlets - she was the best in show back then. So now it's time to start designing quilts and all I can think of are the good old crazy quilts. I want to mix the old French hemp with the new Moda cotton and see what happens. I want to mix collections - and fibers. Is it possible that they can all live together? Although I feel like the newcomer on the block in the quilt world - I already want to break all the rules and start mixing it up. Slow and steady - stay calm and carry on - or go crazazy?!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Chateau Dumas

Our wonderful host in France, Lizzie Ezekiel, has written up the provenance of Chateau Dumas - our home for the Chateau Getaway this summer - hope you enjoy a little history...

Chateau Dumas: 1300-1800
Chateau Dumas is a stunning property with an intriguing past, but piecing its history together is no easy task. When we bought the Chateau five years ago we inherited a history file and from that we established that there was a Lord Pons of Auty in the 13th century, but we know nothing more about him. The first official record of the Chateau dates from 1347 when Auty village and the surrounding land were given to Bertrand de Prez, Lord of Montpezat to repay him for services rendered during the Battle of Crecy.

We assume he built a Chateau because of references to it over the next 400 years. It seems to have stayed in the same family until 1777 when it passed to Jacques de Beaumont de Verneuil. He had 12 happy years there until disaster struck in 1789 when the Chateau was set on fire and all but destroyed during the French Revolution. Fortunately Jacques de B was away at the time, but he vented his feelings fully in a letter he wrote to the authorities. Even though it’s a copy of the original, it’s wonderful to see his beautiful, flowing handwriting written with a quill pen.

We’re pretty sure that some architectural elements survived the fire - such as the big stone staircase pictured here - and these we think were incorporated into the new Chateau when it was rebuilt in the neo-classical style favoured by Napoleon.

At some point the Chateau was declared as ‘national goods’ by the administration (quite common post-Revolution) and sold off and this is where the de Cruzy family enter the picture. Thanks to the records they kept we know a lot about how they lived and the servants they kept from Calinou Lagane, the wet nurse to Poncet, the groom, but I’ve run out of room here so you’ll have to wait until the next post to hear about them!